"History and Our Children Will Defend Us": Motherism, Christianity and the Gendered Interpretation of Political Morality by the Black Sash of South Africa, 1955-1959




Cywinski, Donna L.

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This thesis seeks to expand existing scholarship by examining the notion of political morality articulated by the Black Sash between 1955 and 1959 as a gendered adaptation of South African liberalism which was animated by motherisms and influenced by Christianity. As the white women of the Black Sash scrutinized the political and social structures of apartheid through the lens of political morality they were confronted by the contradictions between political morality and the system of white supremacy which apartheid was designed to maintain. Refusing to compromise the principles of political morality, the Black Sash adopted multiple strategies of resistance to the racialized patriarchy of the white state. Motherisms provided a crucial platform on which the Black Sash formed alliances with African women to resist the racialized patriarchy of apartheid which viewed white women as having no role in public political discourse and black women as the superfluous appendages of black men. Internal tensions arose within the Black Sash over whether they should focus exclusively on educating the white electorate or on opposing specific unjust laws directed at black South Africans. However, inter-racial alliances and practical resistance to apartheid were crucial strategies adopted by the Black Sash which enabled some white women to shed privileged perspectives and cross racial divides.



South Africa, The Black Sash, Aparthied, Liberalism, Motherism, Christianity